GameStop's warning on EA's Star Wars game seen premature

Electronic Arts Inc (EA.O) has little to fear from retailer GameStop Corp's (GME.N) warning about weak sales for EA's just-released "Star Wars" title, with analysts agreeing it was too early to predict its success or failure.The videogame publisher's shares fell as much as 7 percent on Monday after GameStop said its sales of "Star Wars: Battlefront" were weaker than anticipated.Analysts and one top investor in EA said it was premature to conclude that the warning was a sign of weak demand.The comments from GameStop, the world's largest videogame retailer, do not reflect digital videogame sales and come days before Black Friday, traditionally the biggest shopping day in the United States.GameStop's warning is "really being driven by an acceleration of digital downloads," Cowen & Co analysts said."It's too early to sound any alarm bells," said Christopher Merwin, an analyst at Barclays. "The success of 'Star Wars Battlefront' will be largely dictated by how it does digitally." The videogame industry has been shifting to distributing games digitally in recent years, with increasing bandwidth and easier access on consoles allowing players to download their favorite titles, rather than purchase physical copies.Digital, a higher-margin business, has been growing steadily, and comprised nearly 52 percent of EA's revenue for the year ended March 31.Matt Titus, a shareholder in EA and a portfolio manager at American Century Investment Management, termed Monday's stock move an "over-reaction," adding that the Star Wars title had "some of the strongest pre-orders in the history of gaming." American Century is EA's eighth biggest shareholder, with a 3.03 percent stake, according to Thomson Reuters data.An Electronic Arts spokesman declined to comment on early sales of the title or on GameStop's remarks.EA last month raised its forecast for sales of "Star Wars: Battlefront" to 13 million units for the year ending March 2016, up from its earlier estimate of 9 million to 10 million. The title launched on Nov. 17, a month ahead of Walt Disney's (DIS.N) release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," the latest installment in George Lucas' space opera franchise.The game is expected to be a popular gift over the holidays for kids, adult Star Wars fans and gamers alike."I have a 7-year-old, she's probably going to play the game, my neighbor's kids are playing the game ... none of them have ever seen a Star Wars movie and they all want to play the game," Titus said. (Reporting by Sai Sachin R and Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Leslie Adler)

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Scientists on quest for friction-free oil

Scientists from BP are applying molecular science in their laboratories to make the perfect oil blend to reduce engine friction and increase efficiency.According to the company, friction caused by various metal-to-metal contact points is a major problem for car engines; costing the UK economy an estimated 24 billion pounds (36.2 billion USD) each year through lost efficiency and damage through wear and tear. The only barrier between the high-force contacts of engine surfaces is a thin layer of lubricant, but they are coming under increasing pressure from modern engines.At BP's facility in Berkshire, west of London, scientists and engineers are working to create lubricants that operate inside the latest motor engines, while improving the performance and efficiency of vehicles already on the market. "Engine oil is like the blood of the engine. It touches every part of the engine, it has many jobs to do and it has to keep that engine running efficiently by keeping things clean, keeping metal surfaces apart and reducing friction," explained development technologist, Simon Gurney, at BP's Technology Centre. The pressure inside modern engines also increases the need for effective fuels and lubricants. The Bugatti Veyron supercar, for example, had an engine pressure of 18 bar when it launched in 2005. Today a standard Ford Fiesta can run a similar pressure.Gurney said the increasing brake mean effective pressure (BMEP) -- the pressure within an engine -- has put bigger demands on an oil's performance."In an engine it's full of metal parts; the oil's primary job is to keep those metal parts apart from one another. So it has to be really strong under these high pressure environments. Now, an engine maybe 20 years ago was maybe making 10 bar of pressure, today; 20 bar. So engine pressures have doubled," he said. Using a state-of-the-art scanning electron microscope, the scientists at BP can see the damage caused by friction and fuel breakdown forming deposits on engines at a nano-level. It's their job to experiment with hundreds of thousands of oil compounds that could reduce this effect, according to analytical expert Tom Lynch."Our task is to find that needle in a haystack that makes that big difference in an improvement of the performance of our oil. And so we strive, using these high end analytical pieces of equipment to be able to understand what each molecule does and what its role is in our lubricant. And we try and tune these molecules to be the best at that job," Lynch told Reuters, adding that they use a mass spectrometer to test molecular formulas 24-hours-a-day at temperatures of up to 6000 degrees Celsius. Once they've established a viable formula, the oils are transferred to the BP Blend Shop to be produced on a larger scale that could eventually be replicated around the world."The demands of modern engines and modern hardware mean that the complexity of our formulations is increasing. We have to experiment with various different materials and determine the best blending methods so they can be replicated globally," said Christopher Rolfe, team leader for blending operations. "Once the formulation has been sent over from the laboratory, we would then take that formulation and work out how to blend it. The blending methods here get replicated globally, so the understanding of the hardware and the engines that takes place in the laboratory, is then transferred into real-world applications in the blend shop here," he added.The team concedes that industry moves toward more hybrid engines may present new challenges. But BP says the potential for greater efficiency and CO2 reduction is significant. It's their aim to concoct oil and lubricants that will help today's engines be as environmentally friendly as possible; with the war on friction a key factor in achieving this goal.

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More than half of Amazon tree species seen at risk of extinction

WASHINGTON South America's vast Amazon region harbors one of the world's most diverse collection of tree species, but more than half may be at risk for extinction due to ongoing deforestation to clear land for farming, ranching and other purposes, scientists say.Researchers said on Friday that if recent trends continued, between 36 and 57 percent of the estimated 15,000 Amazonian tree species likely would qualify as threatened with extinction under criteria used by the group that makes such determinations, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.The study covered roughly 2.1 million square miles (5.5 million square km) spanning Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. The researchers analyzed Amazonian forest surveys and data on current and projected deforestation areas."Many of the species that we suggest may be threatened areused by Amazonian residents on a daily basis, and many othersare crucial to Amazonian economies," conservation ecologist Nigel Pitman of the Field Museum in Chicago.These range from wild populations of economically important food crops like the Brazil nut, açaí fruit and heart of palm, to valuable timber species, to several hundred species that Amazonian residents depend upon for fruits, seeds, thatch, medicines, latex and essential oils, Pitman said.The trees also are important in their ecosystems for erosion control and climate moderation, Pitman said. "Scientists have been raising the alarm about Amazonian deforestation for several decades, and projections indicate that forest loss will continue for the foreseeable future," said forest ecologist Hans ter Steege of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands."The good news is that over the last 10 years the rate of forest loss in the Amazon has dropped dramatically."Amazonian forests have been shrinking since the 1950s as people cut and burn areas for farming, ranching and development. Until now, there has been no reliable estimate of how many tree species were threatened with extinction. "Yes, the threats are daunting, but it's important to remember that more than 85 percent of forests in the greater Amazon are still standing," Pitman said.The researchers said Amazon parks, reserves and indigenous territories, if managed well, should be able to protect most of the threatened species. Previous research found Amazon forests already have dwindled by about 12 percent and will decline up to another 28 percent by 2050. The research was published in the journal Science Advances. (Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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Facebook CEO Zuckerberg to take two months of paternity leave

SAN FRANCISCO Facebook Inc (FB.O) Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday he will take two months of paternity leave after his daughter's birth, a strong statement from one of the busiest and most powerful U.S. executives on the importance of family time.Silicon Valley technology firms have rushed to extend parental leave allowances and other benefits in an attempt to recruit and retain talent, but many workers do not take advantage for fear of falling behind at work or missing out on promotions.Facebook, the world's biggest online social network, allows its U.S. employees to take up to four months of paid maternity or paternity leave, which can be used all at once or throughout the first year of their child's life, a policy which is generous by U.S. standards. Zuckerberg announced in July that he and his wife, Priscilla Chan, were expecting a baby girl. A 2015 study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 21 percent of employers it surveyed offered paid maternity leave, and 17 percent provided paid paternity leave. "This is a very personal decision," Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page, along with a picture of a stroller, a yellow baby carrier and his dog, Beast. "Studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, outcomes are better for the children and families." Zuckerberg, 31, did not say who would be running the company while he is out. Facebook did not immediately respond to an inquiry. It is likely that chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who oversees all of Facebook's advertising, will assume leadership. Zuckerberg largely oversees products, but will likely rely on chief product officer Chris Cox while he is out. Zuckerberg's decision is unusual among high-level tech executives, especially men. Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) CEO Marissa Mayer took two weeks off after her first child's birth in 2012, and when she announced she was pregnant with identical twin girls in September, she said she would be taking limited maternity leave and "working throughout." Zuckerberg's post generated more than 50,000 'likes' in one hour and nearly 3,000 comments. Many of the comments lauded his decision and said it sent a positive message about U.S. parental leave policies. Sandberg commented and congratulated Zuckerberg and his wife. Noting the baby's upcoming birth, she wrote in her post: "I can't wait to meet her." (Reporting By Yasmeen Abutaleb; Editing by Chris Reese, Bill Rigby, Diane Craft and Leslie Adler)

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'Heroes Reborn' fall finale paints an uncertain picture of the future

"How do you stop a celestial event?" With mankind facing global annihilation thanks to an impending H.E.L.E. (human extinction level event), multiple parties have warred with how to prevent a seemingly unpreventable apocalypse. Everyone seems to agree that the answer rests upon the shoulders of the time-displaced children of the late Claire Bennet — powers-absorbing Tommy Clark, née Nathan Bennet, and his sister Malina, who wields the ability to control the elements — but warring parties differ on how best to use them. See also: 'SNL' gives us the greatest holiday gift ever: Amy Poehler and Tina Fey set to host Noah Bennet, the children's grandfather, believes Tommy and Malina might be able to stop the catastrophe with their powers. Erica Kravid, the leader of the shadowy corporation Renautas, believes that there's no preventing the end of the world, but there's a way to start a brave new one. Her plan involves using Tommy's current powers as the Master of Space and Time (abilities he borrowed from Hiro Nakamura, currently missing in action) to catapult a veritable handful of hand-selected humans thousands of years into the future, where her company has been dutifully working toward creating a society called Gateway. It won't save everyone, but it'll keep the species alive. "I think she likes humanity more than human beings," Noah puts it while driving with his granddaughter Malina. It's a compelling conundrum that paints the villains of Heroes Reborn in a new light. Erica's methods are extreme, but is she wrong in prioritizing the longevity of the species over the salvation of the present? Her interest in keeping humankind alive does not negate the evil she's committed throughout the miniseries and even deeper into the past, but it adds some much needed nuance to the story. Too bad we won't get the resolution for the fallout for another several weeks, as Heroes hits pause for the remainder of the year, opting to air its final three episodes in January — and while the philosophical questions about humanity's future remain compelling, the fall finale's cliffhangers… well, not so much. Where did Katana Girl take Tommy? How will Noah survive getting squashed by a car in the middle of a hurricane? How will Carlos and Farrah free Micah Sanders and evade the army of Harrises surrounding Sunstone Manor? Why is Matt Parkman being such a twerp? These are the questions we're left pondering over the next few weeks… or not. Who knows about the future of Horn-Rimmed Glasses and friends, but for many viewers, the near future involves a turkey coma that should keep the Heroes hangover at bay until the new year. Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.

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